Review: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

008 - The Alchemist

008 - The Alchemist

Rating – 1*

This is one of those books that I feel I ought to have read by this point in my life. The Alchemist is just one of those titles which I’ve known about for a long time, and actually known relatively little about. It’s really short, which is it’s biggest pro point, because I actually hated this book.

At it’s centre, this book follows a young shepherd named Santiago as he journeys in hope of finding treasure. As he travels he encounters obstacles which he has to overcome, and ultimately he has to learn a few important life lessons. Maybe I would have enjoyed it had I been a bit younger, but I found the book to be preachy and predictable, there was no nuance – it was just being rubbed in your face with no tact or skill. Maybe if I were younger, and still influenced heavily by what I read, I could have taken a lot away from this, but as an older reader I just wanted to rip pages from the book.

Essentially this book is a 150 page metaphor for what destiny is – and it is infuriating. Even though the writing was okay the skill I found there was completely overwhelmed by how much I disliked the content of the pages. Reading other reviews I can see this is the epitome of a marmite book, and that’s great that it can produce such varied responses – some love it, some hate it, and I am personally in that latter category.

Review: Sealskin – Su Bristow

053 - Sealskin

Rating – 1* – DNF

It isn’t very often I fail to finish a book, give it only 1* and return it to Audible, but this is apparently my Waterloo. I was excited by this book, it’s set in Scotland and is a take on the myth of selkies. In a nutshell it sounded fantastic. That is until I started listening to it.

While the atmosphere is evocative, the writing is beautiful and it was fantastic to listen to, I’m not able to enjoy a book which has rape culture seeping through its every line. I’m not okay with that. Noone should be okay with that and I don’t understand how this book was even published. Within the first few pages our arse of a main character, Donald, sees some seals shed their skin and turn into beautiful girls and begin dancing on the shoreline. He likens them to children and yet he steals one of the pelts, and when they fled and one is left on the shore unable to go back to the sea, he thinks it’s a great idea to force himself on her. It comes out of nowhere. I’m thankful it wasn’t graphic but it was already too much. He then decides to take her home, because that’s a fantastic idea – essentially this is where the main bulk of the story starts.

When he gets home, with this young, naked, bleeding girl who isn’t capable of speech, his mother is understandably baffled. When she asks what happens, he tells her words to this effect:- “I saw this beautiful naked woman dancing there, like she was meant for me, and so I couldn’t help myself!” – bear in mind this was before the 50 page mark. So these words are spoken at the very start of the book. After that, I was just so angry I had to take a break.

If this were a story from Mhairi’s perspective, I think I could have liked it. She has no voice throughout this, she’s a plot device and a metaphor for Donald’s ‘redemption’ (bullsh*t redemption at that). The blurb of this book says it’s the story of atonement and forgiveness and I really struggle to see how when it’s nearly 300 pages of a rapist (and his mother) holding his victim, essentially, against her will. I fail to see how at any point this book could consider itself to be romantic.

I didn’t finish this book. I rarely DNF a book, I usually plod on and try persevere but with this, no. I’m not going to sit and read a book which is about a girl falling in love with her rapist when she doesn’t even get a voice.

Would I recommend, no. No I wouldn’t.